The Day's All-Area Baseball Player of the Year: Waterford's Connor Podeszwa
It wasn’t lost on Connor Podeszwa that here in Connecticut, a state that has produced an appreciable list of professional baseball talent, the last two Gatorade Players of the Year come from Waterford High School.
The award, often misconstrued, doesn’t merely recognize on field talent, “but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.”
And so while the Lancers have a Connecticut-best 11 state championships, nothing else serves as a better advertisement for the program that it is producing exemplary citizens as well.
“Waterford has a reputation for producing winners and having a winning culture,” Podeszwa said. “I know I won the (Gatorade) award, but really, it’s about the whole town. It starts at lower levels. I had great Little League coaches. So many others willing to volunteer their time. I wouldn’t be the player I am today without people volunteering their time.”
The player he is today: Gatorade Connecticut Player of the Year, The Day’s 2021 Baseball Player of the Year and soon-to-be freshman at Tufts University.
“Connor just gets it,” Waterford coach Art Peluso said. “He just plays with joy. He's been doing it for us since sophomore year.”
Podeszwa became the third player in Waterford history to win the Gatorade Award, joining Jared Burrows in 2020 and Colin O'Keefe in 2010. His name will eventually make the walls inside Francis X. Sweeney Fieldhouse with other Waterford athletes of lore and legend, including Gary Swanson, Liz Mueller, Katie Schoepfer and Kelli Connors.
Podeszwa was 8-0 with a 0.92 earned run average, 83 strikeouts and seven walks in 49 innings for the Lancers, who went 19-3 and reached the Class M semifinals. He also batted .343 with 26 RBI, 11 stolen bases and an OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of 1.010.
Still, many high school baseball observers around the state were perplexed the award didn’t go to East Catholic pitcher Frank Mozzicato, who will pitch at UConn next year if he’s not drafted. Even Podeszwa was surprised.
“I was in complete disbelief,” Podeszwa said. “(Peluso) told me I was a finalist and I was saying that as long as that Mozzicato is still breathing, I don't have a chance. He had a fantastic year. I was hoping maybe I had a shot.”
The Gatorade committee factored Podeszwa’s off-field accomplishments as well, including his admission to Tufts, membership to the Waterford Student Council and his volunteerism at his church's annual football festival and as a youth baseball coach. He also maintained a 3.80 grade point average.
“Over the last four years, I worked really hard in the classroom,” Podeszwa said. “I’m getting a good opportunity at Tufts.”
Podeszwa also earned a one-time special award from the Nick Woviotis Memorial Scholarship Committee. He’s also eligible for the National Player of the Year Award through Gatorade's “Play it Forward” platform. He’ll be awarded a $1,000 grant to a local or national youth sports organization of his choosing and is eligible to submit a 30-second video explaining why the organization he chose is deserving of one of 12 $10,000 spotlight grants, which will be announced throughout the year.
“I can’t tell you how much fun it was to coach him,” Peluso said. “He made it fun to come to the field every day.”
The Day's 2021 All-Area Baseball Team
Player of the Year - Connor Podeszwa (Waterford)
Infield - Steven Laliberte (Bacon Academy), Evan McCue (Waterford), Gavin O’Brien (East Lyme), Ryan Salvador (Waterford)
Outfield - Ryan Gardiner (New London), Anthony Franco (Fitch), Ryan O’Connor (Fitch)
Pitcher - Kyle Egan (St. Bernard), Colton Vasseur (Bacon Academy), Griffin Pontbriant (NFA)
Catcher - Ryan Deshefy (NFA)
Designated hitter - Cam McGugan (Fitch)
Utility - Chas Terni (Montville)
To stay updated on all of The Day's All-Area player of the year and team selections, visit http://www.theday.com/allareatheday
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